Balkans: January 14, 2003


The BBC reported that up to 50,000 Turkish Cypriots participated in a rally supporting the UN reunification plan. If the figure is correct, thats right at 25 percent of the Turkish Cypriot population taking to the streets. Moreover, it signifies real trouble for Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. Denktash (at the moment) continues to oppose the UN plan. The reunification carrot for the Turkish Cypriots is EU membership. As for the stick if no reunification deal is reached, the "Greek" southern 2/3rds of the island could join the EU as early as 2004. The UN plan creates a federal structure where a weak central government oversees two "regions" each with a high degree of local autonomy. (Austin Bay)

Cyprus has been occupied largely by Greeks for thousands of years. Turks conquered in in 16th century and Britain took over in 19th. Granted independence in 1960, despite many Greeks who wanted unification with Greece. This was opposed by the Turkish minority on the island, who feared they would be expelled if the island became part of Greece. Turkey had occupied Greece for four centuries and the Greeks were still still steaming over that. Greek has expelled all Turks when it regained independence, and was further angered when Greek residents of Turkey were expelled in 1920s (after an unsuccessful Greek invasion of Turkey). Unification of Cyprus and Greece continued to be an issue through the 1960s. In 1974, Greek Cypriote soldiers took over the government and declared unification. Turkey, citing 1960 treaty that established Cyprus independence (and protected Turks on Cyprus) invaded and partitioned the island. Situation has simmered since, with the island becoming a haven for gangsters and all manner of dirty deals. 




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